The English curriculum is designed to give students a foundation in British and American literature, to enhance their ability to analyze texts and articulate their ideas, and to broaden and deepen their cultural knowledge. English majors therefore take a variety of courses not only in literature but also in philosophy, history, foreign languages, classics, the fine arts, writing, and the sciences. With many free electives, they are also able to pursue minors in other departments as well as concentrations in Writing or Fine Arts.
In addition to enriching the lives of students, the study of language and literature prepares students for a variety of careers. The ability to speak and write clearly and effectively, to use research materials creatively, to analyze and interpret written materials of all sorts, to think about people’s motives and understand why they act the way they do—these are skills demanded in just about any occupation. With these skills the English major is also prepared for professional training of many kinds. English graduates of the Institute have been successful in graduate schools of law, business, medicine, theology, psychology, and art, as well as English. English graduates are now at work practicing medicine, commanding troops, writing novels, managing businesses, writing for newspapers, creating marketing strategies, raising money, editing periodicals, painting pictures, practicing law, teaching students, and running colleges.
Qualified English majors may take courses in which they choose their own subject, read books related to it, discuss them individually with an instructor, and write essays on the subject. Also, in the departmental Honors Program, the cadet may investigate a subject at greater length and eventually write a long paper on a topic like “The Theme of Hunting in American Literature” or “Anthony Trollope as a Legal Historian.” (See EN 473 EN 474 , EN 495 -EN 496 , FA 401 , and FA 407 .)
English majors enjoy, of course, the same range of activities as other cadets; but the one special to them is the English Society, which meets in the Daniels Library in Scott Shipp Hall and brings to VMI important poets, novelists, critics, and artists to read and discuss their work. This group and others, like the Timmins-Gentry Music Society, make trips to see plays and films, visit museums, and hear concerts. The Department also sponsors a biennial trip to England for English majors and minors. Eligible English majors and English or Writing minors may join Sigma Tau Delta, an international honor society.